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April 09, 2009

The Real UC Message: Prepare For Enterprise Desktop Telephony "End-of-Life"

By Art Rosenberg


Unfortunately, a fractured foot kept me from attending the Spring VoiceCon show as planned, but that didn’t mean that I couldn’t see and hear the important messages that were delivered there. Needless to say, from a “vision” perspective, those messages are no real surprise any more, and everyone in the industry is trying to preach the “gospels of UC.” What we are finally seeing, however, are practical products and services that can help enterprise IT start selectively planning and delivering IP Telephony and UC applications, based upon real demand from both individual end users and enterprise management responsible for specific, high-value business processes.
 
There is no question about where new telephony technology (IP Telephony) is going, from both a business and consumer (customer) user perspective. It will become an integrated UC application to make voice contact with people more flexible and efficient, “anywhere, any time, any way.” UC, in turn, will be integrated with all aspects of information access and information exchange, often referred to as “collaboration.” While direct access to information has become increasingly easy with web search facilities and portals, making real-time contact with people still remains a challenge that UC and presence management technology is helping to simplify.
 
To attain such business communication objectives:
  • IP telephony functions will be software-driven and personalized (“contextual” contact initiation, presence-based).
  • IP telephony usage will be location, device, and network independent.
  • UC device (smartphone, softphone) interfaces will exploit screen, keyboard, and speech interfaces instead of the legacy Touch-Tone keypad. This will enable person-to-person communications to be multi-modal, cross-media, and trans-modal (switching between real-time contacts and messaging).
  • UC will facilitate both person-to-person and process (application)-to-person contact initiation (CEBP), thus making business processes more proactive, flexible, and efficient for better real-time performance management.
The real challenge to enterprise IT management or third-party support services is how they should be migrating from current legacy telephony technology to the new and more complex UC-IP Telephony world of the future.
 
The “End of Life” Strategy of UC Implementation Planning
Unfortunately, every level of telephony communication technology will be affected by the convergence and integration requirements of UC. This means that changing legacy architectures, products, and old telecom perspectives will be necessary to deal with all the changes that will be evolving, even if the new technology were free! So, the main message today from vendors attacking the upcoming UC market is to start the migration selectively with existing applications that can be updated with minimal disruption and costs. In addition, they will all offer expertise and consulting services to help inexperienced IT organizations plan and cost justify practical implementations. 
 
With today’s economy forcing everyone to control technology spending as much as possible, the potential of lower costs and increased people/process productivity may not be enough to justify customer UC movement. This is particularly true when there is not enough “demand” from Line of Business management or individual end users of the technology who just may not be aware of the benefits they will gain from UC (UC-B (News - Alert), UC-U).
 
However, what is starting to force the issue of moving forward with UC is the growing need to replace existing “end-of-life” enterprise technologies that are not only getting more expensive to maintain, but cannot be simply replaced with old technology. Needless to say, everything that is old and TDM telephony based, falls into this category, including desktop telephones, PBXs, TDM trunking, key systems, voice mail systems, call center systems, etc.
 
Growing use of personalized mobile phones for increased accessibility is adding another driver for the need for UC flexibility. Throw in the fact that mobile smartphones and PC-based softphones can minimize the need to buy traditional and limited desktop phones, and you have a new ballgame for UC implementation planning. What is also complicating matters for enterprise IP Telephony planning perhaps even more, is the fact that IP-based, hosted/ managed services offer new implementation alternatives as opposed to traditional premise-based ownership.
 
Bottom Line For Enterprise IT UC Planning
They can’t really do it by themselves! They will need to find the new requirements for UC applications and the business priorities for those requirements, before they can even start evaluating the new UC products and services that are being announced daily.
 
What will also make it hard for the move to IP telephony and UC is that UC is not just about voice telephony, and the “elephants in the room” already are text messaging technologies (email, IM, SMS) and the myriad of online business process applications that are ready to exploit CEPB (communications enabled business process) capabilities to initiate automated notifications or contextual person-to-person telephone contacts. The aggressive presence of Microsoft and IBM at VoiceCon underscored their interest in enterprise UC/IP Telephony migrations.
 
So it is interesting to see the kind of long-overdue architectural changes that leading telephony providers like Avaya are making to migrate their customers to IP Telephony in the UC marketplace. Open, real-time communication application software, rather than just desktop hardware, along with integrations with business process applications is obviously the new focus of the UC game. But it’s also obvious that you can’t just sell telephone systems separately anymore, so look for more teamwork between the operating systems providers, the desktop application providers, and the communication providers.
 
Which vendor will lead the UC migration? Who knows!
What Do You Think?
 
You can contact me at: artr@ix.netcom.com or (310) 395-2360.

Art Rosenberg, a veteran of the computer and communications industry, contributes his column, The Unified-View to TMCnet. To read more of Art’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Erik Linask



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